Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fringe Elements

She's only lived here for three months in the senior place. After all, the landlord decided that three months was a good amount of time for the initial lease. Now she is leaving because the rent is more than she can afford on her meager Social Security and her savings is gone.

She says, "It's ok, I lived in my car before." Only this time she has no car to move into.

I've met and known a face that will soon become one of the faceless. People will avert their eyes when they see her. They will never know how funny she is, or where she came from, or the depth of her stories. They will see a woman previously clean, now not so clean and needing $20,000 worth of dental work to show her beauty. A long ago car wreck and dashboard had their way with her teeth.

I say, "What do you eat when you're homeless?" thinking there is no refrigerator, no stove where she is going to live. She says, "Oh, I go to the food places, but I can't eat only salads, I need some meat." She does indeed; she weighs less than a hundred pounds.

She says, " I usually get my dog something and me something."

I worry a little less knowing what her dog means to her. I say, " I was thinking how hard it would be to carry dog food around all day, a big old sack of food." We laugh at the vision. The tears will come after she leaves.

Her dog loves her. When she is having a hard time he stands guard between her and possible harm, when she is doing good, he lays at her side.

She says, "The worst part about being on the street is not being able to take a shower. People give you a couple of dollars and then say you really need to clean up. Like what person is going to say 'Come on over to my house and take a shower?'" And (with a giggle), "what am I going to do, walk on someone's lawn and borrow their hose?"

"Once I paid three dollars at a camping place to get to take a shower," she tells me. Showers aren't readily available where she is moving. And then there is the volume and weight of toiletries as travelers know, and bottles and jars don't make very good pillows.

She is packing and preparing; losing her natural soft nature that she has recovered so recently, for the toughness so necessary to survive on the streets. --Margo Viers

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